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Photos: Night of protest in St. Paul follows shooting of Philando Castile

MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
By 5:30pm Thursday, more than 4,000 assembled outside of J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul, where friends and coworkers expressed their sentiments for Philando Castile.

Thursday night, several thousand Minnesotans gathered in protest at St. Paul’s J.J. Hill Montessori School, the workplace of Philando Castile, the 32-year-old black man fatally shot by a Saint Anthony Police officer in Falcon Heights Wednesday.

Family members and school staff addressed a crowd of several thousand gathered at the school, remembering Castile’s contributions to their community while decrying what they said was an obvious case of excessive use of force by police. Many in the crowd called for an immediate indictment of the officer involved, who the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension later identified as Jeronimo Yanez. Yanez and the other officer involved in the incident, Joseph Kauser, have been placed on administrative leave pending the BCA’s investigation, according to a Saint Anthony Police Department statement.

From the school, the crowd marched to Governor Mark Dayton’s residence, where hundreds had gathered since early Thursday morning and protested into early Friday morning.

Castile’s death comes at a time of tense debate over police killings of African Americans, both in Minnesota and nationwide. Castile was the 123rd black person killed by police in the United States this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman addressed the crowd Thursday night, noting the proximity of Castile’s shooting to that of Jamar Clark, a black man shot by Minneapolis police last year. “I wanted to start off with an apology,” he said to the crowd. “I’ve never felt pain like I did today … One life cut short is one life too many.”

Though the shooting took place in Falcon Heights, not St. Paul, Coleman said he was doing everything within his power to expedite the investigation, saying that waiting “six months or three months for answers” was too long. The Clark case, which resulted in non-indictment of the officers involved after local and federal investigations, took several months before any official findings were released.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who spoke earlier Thursday at a press conference, said that he had requested a federal investigation into the shooting, saying that he believes the Saint Anthony officer would have never fired his gun had the driver and passenger been white.

Yet Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said that Minnesota’s elected officials simply aren’t doing enough to end what she calls a long, historic pattern of police brutality against the state’s black community.

Levy-Pounds said the black community needs to start holding the state’s elected officials accountable for the myriad racial disparities in Minnesota. If the city and state governmental officials won’t act in the interest of the state’s people of color, she said, then the community needs to elect new officials. “We need to make Minnesota a model for what it means to stand up for justice and to mean it,” she said.

Castile’s death drew worldwide attention after a video of the shooting’s aftermath was uploaded to Facebook. Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds took the footage, which shows Castile slumped over and bleeding, a police officer in the background seen pointing his pistol in the car window. According to Reynolds, the two were pulled over due to a broken tail light and Castile had informed the officer he was armed with a permit to carry, and was reaching for his wallet before the officer fired the shots that killed him.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman told the crowd he was doing everything he could to speed up the investigation.
Philando Castile's family, Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Philando Castile’s family, along with Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, look on from behind the stage at the J.J. Hill Montessori vigil on Thursday night.
Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile's girlfriend, leads the march
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile’s girlfriend, leads the march with Castile’s family to the governor’s residence on Summit Avenue.
Fatima Moor with her two daughters
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Fatima Moor with her two daughters said what drew her to the protest was the young girl in the video who witnessed the Castile shooting from the backseat of the car. “That could be my family,” she said.
Jens Hendrickson, left, and Harrison Marshall with his father, Kevin
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Jens Hendrickson, left, and Harrison Marshall with his father, Kevin, said they’ve known Castile for three years where he served them food every day — and even memorized their allergies.
A demonstrator leads a chant along Lexington Parkway in St. Paul
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
A demonstrator leads a chant along Lexington Parkway in St. Paul, where police blocked off both sides of the road.
More than 100 demonstrators perform a 'die-in' at Lexington and Selby
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
More than 100 demonstrators perform a ‘die-in’ at Lexington and Selby in St. Paul.
Protesters blocked off several intersections along Lexington
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Protesters blocked off several intersections along Lexington during rush hour, backing up cars for blocks as they exited I-94.
St. Paul resident Aaron Armstrong
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
St. Paul resident Aaron Armstrong: “Philando was a friend to everyone who knew him. He knew my daughters’ name. He knew everybody’s name.”
St. Paul NCAAP member Greg Jackson addresses
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
St. Paul NAACP member Greg Jackson addresses a crowd of 500 in front of the governor’s residence.
Emotions ran high as many demonstrators expressed anger and grief
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Emotions ran high as many demonstrators expressed anger and grief for an event they said was all too common in their community.
Ericka Cullars-Golden's son Marcus also died in a police-involved shooting
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Ericka Cullars-Golden’s son Marcus also died in a police-involved shooting last January. “I’m sick of all the death,” she said.
John Thompson worked with Castile for six years in St Paul Public Schools.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
John Thompson worked with Castile for six years in St Paul Public Schools. “We don’t have enough positive role models in school and you took him from us,” he said.
Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds urged protesters not to let the momentum fade until real change happens. “When someone’s life is taken you can’t just go back to business as usual,” she said.
The march between the school and the governor's residence
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
The march between the school and the governor’s residence stretched out more than five blocks, taking up both sides of the street.

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